The California Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles from releasing summaries of the confidential personnel files of more than 100 priests accused of molesting children.
A lawyer for several priests asked the court to stop the planned disclosure of the documents, which would have identified when church officials became aware of individual abuse allegations, and what, if any, action was taken.
He argued that release of the documents, known as proffers, would violate the priests’ privacy rights as well as laws that protect confidential communications between attorneys and psychotherapists and their clients.
The summaries were prepared by lawyers for the archdiocese as part of their efforts to resolve 544 claims against the church for failing to protect children from sexually predatory priests.
Victim advocates want the archdiocese to turn over not just the summaries, but the contents of priest personnel files, including complaint letters, therapy referrals and transfer orders. Church critics contend that the documents will show that officials covered up the sexual abuse by shuffling accused priests from parish to parish without alerting police and parishioners or removing them from the ministry.
Lawyers for the church have vowed to fight any disclosure of the actual files in court.
The Supreme Court ordered the lower court to reexamine the issue.